International umpire Steve Bucknor isn’t a favourite among Indians right now. Come to think of it, he hasn’t been a favourite of Indians for quite a while. Is it because he doesn’t have the innate charm that affable umpires like David Shepherd, Rudi Koertzen and Simon Taufel and Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan possess? Or could it be because he’s got a problem against the Indian cricket team whenever it comes to making a decision behind the stumps?
Dec 29, Saturday: Thank the lord it got over today! The hangover was wicked the day this Test started. I had suggested to the match referee that it wouldn’t be right to start the first Test between Australia and India a day after Christmas. But he just laughed at me and said, “Now, now, Steve, be gentle with the Indians.” It turns out, I didn’t have to do too much of the usual hanky-panky at all. Bar tender, could you please top up my rum?
Dec 30, Sunday: It turns out that one of the Indians, the Sikh chap I think, caught me taking a nip while I was standing at third leg on the last day of the Melbourne match. I took him aside and told him, “You know son, that bowling action of yours, have you thought about correcting it?” It seems to have worked. There’s not a peep about my nip in the press.
Dec 31, Monday: Andrew Symonds is such a nice bloke. He’s invited me over to a New Year’s Eve bash at his place. It turns out he loves Jamaican rum too. I told him that I’d definitely come, even if it means me being seen hanging out tonight with a player from one of the teams who’ll be playing in the match I’ll be umpiring next week. He winked at me. Good chap. I hope he’s not inviting that Sikh chap from the Indian team.
Jan 1, Tuesday: I got a blank call in my hotel. It sounded like Venkat, but I can’t be sure. It could have been Bob Woolmer from beyond also, as the voice on the other end said, “Stevie boy, don’t do what you plan to do against any subcontinental team.” I’ve been avoiding champagne ever since. Bar tender, could you please top up my glass? I have umpiring to do tomorrow.
Jan 2: I’ve got to be more subtle now. I thought no one would notice that I was sort of protecting Symonds today. But it turns out a lot of people did notice the three times I didn’t lift my finger when he was, I think, out. But then, Symonds did throw a great bash. What was I supposed to do? Be ungrateful?
Jan. 3: Oh dear Dickie, help me at this hour of need. They’ve started comparing my decisions in this Test to the ones I made in the 2003-2004 Indian tour of Australia. Why does the public have such a long memory? Even Ricky Ponting felt the pinch and said no to a catch he could have kept quiet about and claimed. Oh Dickie!
Jan. 4: The ICC has asked whether I would like to be a wrestling referee in the Olympics in Beijing. Bartender, what should I say? Oh dear, am I seeing double again?